While children have escaped the worst effects of the pandemic, a cluster of rare, but severe cases of heart inflammation, observed in children in the United Kingdom and New York City has set off alarm bells among scientists. They warn that the syndrome might be triggered by an immune system response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19.
A letter published yesterday in The Lancet by a group of British physicians, describes a cluster of eight such cases among Covid-19 patients aged 2-15 years old in London. Some 15 children are being treated for a similar syndrome in New York City intensive care units, among them children testing positive for the virus.
The reports are yet another reminder that the virus will be dodging communities and plaguing public health professionals for some time to come – even as countries attempt to reopen their economies.
While in Europe, such reopenings are being carefully staged following a sharp decline in case counts, in the United States – now the global Covid-19 epicentre – trends are in the opposite direction. Many states are reopening fully for business, even as tens of thousands of new cases are reported daily. Politicians’ defiance of public health advice has further strained tensions between public health experts and the administration of President Donald Trump, who has also announced that he may disband national coronavirus taskforce to focus on rebooting the economy.
The irony is that some developing regions, notably South-East Asia and Africa, are performing much better right now in terms of Covid containment than the United States.
While less touched by coronavirus, per se, developing countries face deeper lockdown dilemmas – both economic and health-related. The Geneva-based Stop TB partnership, projects that prolonged Covid-19 quarantines could lead to 1.4 million more TB-related deaths in coming years, if people can’t access TB clinics during a period of 2-4 months. In terms of solutions, however, TB-hit regions could begin to offer simultaneous diagnosis of TB and Covid-19, with synergistic benefits. Both diseases are highly contagious, so management is similar, and cases can be detected with the same lab equipment. If only health systems can get organized.